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McCain’s tortured relationship with torture

An ironic thing about McCain talking so much about how he was tortured as a POW during the Vietnam War, is that we have learned all the techniques that were used against him. As Andrew Sullivan brilliantly points out, the techniques we called torture when they were used against McCain 40 years ago are no longer “torture”. According to Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Addington, and Tenet, they are merely “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Consequently, by definition McCain was never tortured.

The next irony is that much is made of how 40 years ago, all this (non)torture reportedly elicited false confessions from McCain — including (famously) giving the names of professional football players as members of his squadron. Today, we are assured that these same “enhanced interrogation techniques” are used by us to elicit valuable “intelligence”.

It is also ironic that when McCain was tortured, he was able to console himself with the moral righteousness of someone whose country didn’t practice such barbaric acts (well, at least not publicly). Today, we have lost the moral standing to complain when others torture, just as we have lost the moral standing to complain when another nation preemptively invades one of our allies.

But the ultimate irony is that McCain, who offers his sufferance of torture as his qualification to be president of the most powerful nation on earth, voted to allow the CIA to use these same techniques, thus endowing on our enemies that which he previously reserved for himself.